Joachim Herrmann is the top candidate of the CSU, the Bavarian sister party of Angela Merkel's CDU. In a DW interview, he also addressed the populist AfD's "racism" and defended his call for a limit on refugees.
In light of the latest escalation in tensions with Turkey, Bavaria's Interior Minister Joachim Herrmann (CSU) wants a clear policy towards President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "We in the CSU definitely support an end to negotiations regarding EU accession," he told DW Editor-in-Chief Ines Pohl and reporter Jaafar Abdul-Karim.
A lawyer by training, Herrmann also contends that the German government should advocate for an end to EU payments to Turkey. "As a result of the current stance of the Turkish government, there is no reason for the EU to transfer billions to the Turkish government year in, year out with regard to a future accession. That must be stopped." At the same time, Germany must maintain contact with Turkey, he said, for whenever Erdogan is no longer president of the country. The EU's refugee deal with Turkey should also remain in force, he said.
'Open borders don't impress me'
DW Editor-in-Chief Ines Pohl and moderator Jaafar Abdul-Karim with Bavarian state interior minister Joachim Herrmann
The CSU candidate repeated his call for an annual limit of 200,000 on new refugee arrivals. He criticized Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door policy from two years ago, noting that he was not enthusiastic about accepting the policy but that in the ensuing months Bavaria in particular had carried out much towards the registration and integration of refugees.
Herrmann also defended the suspension of family unification rights for many refugees: "There was a time when people first tried to get their families to safety before they made sure they themselves were safe. But now it is young men who are securing their own safety first and then at a later stage try to find a way for their wives and children to join them. Then the question arises, and this is also an issue for the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, who is primarily at risk?"
The German government considerably tightened family unification rules for refugees in March 2016. Since then, family reunification has been suspended for those fleeing civil war, but not for individually persecuted people. Herrmann wants to see that continued, he told DW.
'AfD is racist'
Herrmann took a clear stance against the right-wing populist party, Alternative for Germany (AfD). "We have nothing to do with the AfD's racism," he said. "The AfD has zero competency regarding domestic security. They talk a lot but for me that is not what counts."
The AfD is polling at about 10 percent, according to the latest surveys. The hurdle to hold seats in the Bundestag is 5 percent.
Joining Merkel on a desert island
It is possible that Herrmann could become the next federal interior minister, following the current holder of that position, Thomas de Maiziere of the CDU. Yet Herrmann, who holds the similar state-level portfolio in Bavaria, is keeping his distance from such rumors. "I won't speculate about cabinet positions," he said.
CSU party chair and Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer is said to want Herrmann in the post as a way to keep pressure on Merkel's refugee policy, which the CSU as a whole has long seen with a critical eye. Despite Herrmann's own cool relationship with the chancellor, he quickly chose her among all the other parties' chancellor candidates as the one to be stuck on a desert island with. He called the head of his sister party, the CDU, an "intelligent woman."